Macular degeneration is a condition that affects the central part of the retina and results in distortion or loss of central vision. It commonly occurs in older adults and is often referred to as age-related macular degeneration. There are two type of age-related macular degeneration: wet and dry. Dry macular degeneration is the most common form of the disease and affects 90% of the people who have the condition.
In the dry form of macular degeneration, there is a breakdown or thinning of the layer of retinal pigment epithelial cells (RPE) in the macula. The macula is the part of the retina responsible for clear central vision. The RPE cells support the light sensitive photoreceptor cells that are so critical to our vision. When we look at something, the photoreceptors (rods and cones) gather the images and send them to the brain, allowing us to see.
The breakdown or degeneration of these cells is called atrophy and is characterized by the presence of drusen (dots of yellow crystalline deposits that develop within the macula) and thinning of the macula. Dry macular degeneration reduces central vision and can affect color perception. Generally, the damage caused by the dry form of macular degeneration is not as severe or rapid as that of the wet form. However, over time, it can cause profound vision loss, affecting the ability to drive, read and recognize faces. Dry macular degeneration may first develop in one eye and then affect both.
There are many risk factors that contribute to age-related macular degeneration. Family history, poor diet, smoking, high cholesterol and high blood pressure are just some of the elements that increase your chances of developing the condition.
Early detection and self-care measures may delay vision loss due to dry macular degeneration. Regular eye exams are essential to maintain healthy vision and monitor for harmful conditions such as macular degeneration. If you are due for an eye exam or would like more information about dry macular degeneration, contact The Eye Institute of South Jersey at 856-205-1100 or eyeinsj.com today.